Andrew Moshanov explains why what is already happening at national level is inevitable, and desirable, at international level.
In my first article, I predicted that in a few years more than a half of coaches working in combat sports worldwide will have a second qualification, which will be “IMMAF Coach in Mixed Martial Arts”
Following my recent visit to the Russian MMA Championships, I can see that it is already the case in this country.
1) From 760 accredited MMA coaches in Russia, 60% of them are qualified in at least one Olympic sport, be it wrestling, judo, karate, sambo, boxing or taekwondo. Now with MMA emerging as a popular sport internationally and nationally – there is an appetite for cross-over among coaches and athletes.
In the countries where the sport is regulated by federal law and supervised by the Ministry of Sport, there are no hurdles or artificial barriers for any coach to accomplish such an upgrade and obtain this second qualification. There are also no obstacles for athletes to participate in several combat sports during the competitive season for the majority of the athletes, except those few who are members of Olympic squads. For the rest of them, there is the freedom to migrate between the sports and try themselves out in the new disciplines.
2) When it comes to the discussion of sports development, a common buzzword is “the pyramid”. The pyramid typically starts with a foundation at the bottom, from there it works its way up to participation then performance and finally excellence at the very top of the pyramid.
The 2021 Russian MMA Championships saw 7,000 senior athletes, 2,000 juniors (age 18-19), 5,000 cadets (age 16-17) and 4,000 (age 12-13, 14-15) from 87 regions of the country taking part in the 3-stage selection process.
From that group, the top 16 in each weight class and age group were selected for the “super-finals”. It was remarkable to see that there were representatives of 49 regions at the final stage of selection: this is where we see the pyramid in action with impressive depth and width.
3) For me, it bodes the question, is it only MMA, or is this the case among all combat sports in Russia? The truth is that it is a case for any and every combat sport. All combat sports keep their selection pyramids open to the athletes from other combat disciplines, hence encouraging this great breadth of talent to emerge.
4) I dare to say that in the countries where there are no government regulations of the sport, there are no clear pathways for coaches and athletes. To add to that there are no formulated membership policies, no selection criteria for international representation, no transparent rules on advancement from amateurs to professionals. As a result of this, we often see dramatic tensions between clubs. Usually, there are attempts to secure the membership by using forbidding measures, which do not work. We also see the possessive attitudes of coaches towards their athletes, treating them as though they are commodities.
All of this undermines the whole purpose of the sport – an individual fulfilling their potential – and this “rogue state” attitude ruins the sustainability of clubs and sport in the country.
5) IMMAF is tirelessly working on structuring MMA worldwide and joining forces with the governments in their desire to make this sport safe. We are convinced that the international association GAISF will soon acknowledge the fact that MMA is now a regulated sport in more and more countries worldwide – with the number of countries regulating currently sitting at 50.
By opening up the selection pyramid to all other sports we will continue to emerge from the “wild west” of the unregulated past and prove we want to be an active, collaborative and generous force in the world of martial arts.